There were seven white roses, long stem, budded, domestic, the same snow-angel white her wedding dress had been year-before-last when Ellie and Lindy had tried so hard to convince her to wear roller skates under her gown just like they did sometimes in movies. Seven white roses. One for each year her little cuckoo's nest darling had lived and breathed on this earth, sheltering against her for the protection that she could not provide when the time came and the bank collected payment. Her accounts had been empty and overdrawn as they always had been in those days. She had not been able to save her own little baby girl.

In loving memory of Lumina Vana Calloway. May your spirit be protected by Christ on its journey home.

The wind was a chill this late in October and she shrugged closer down into her coat as she knelt in front of the little stone, the knees of her coffee-colored slacks getting damp from the rain-dew on the grass. The little grave was well tended. St. John saw to that, and Demi came alone on holidays to bring seven roses to the little girl who had not lived to see her eighth year.

At home, under the watchful eye of their adopted Uncle, Jibreel and Rachel slept, she in her bassinet and he in his little trundle bed, both at peace with the world because Rachel was seemingly over the worst of his colic. They would be in the parlor, while Eden lounged on the couch and argued softly with Peter over Changing Rooms, which they'd be watching on mute so as not to give Rachel any reason to demonstrate his considerable lung supply. He'd perhaps make a good deep sea skindiver some day. Rachel would be balled up in his blankets, possibly upside down. Jibreel would be - she would be sleeping peacefully like solemn little kitten in one of her lace gowns.

Demi never brought Jibreel with her when she came to the clean little stone in the church's neat cemetery. It seemed somehow wrong, like touching two ends of a wire together and waiting for a spark, and she didn't want Jibreel to feel neglected, not as if Demi's mind was dwelling on times past and not living in the here and the now with the tiny little fingernails that occasionally drew blood on her husband's hands when the baby caught him a certain way. Jibreel had cut her ownself twice before Demi had been obliged to trim her little nails into gentler edges.

And it wasn't as if she wasn't happy, it wasn't as if she didn't love the spare little bundle of her daughter-now-as-she-was. That was another of the reasons Demi didn't bring Jibreel here to this cemetery on the days she came to bring roses. She didn't want her little girl growing up with the shadow of a perfect and perfectly dead little angel in front of her. Jibreel was Jibreel and Lumina was Lumina, although also Jibreel, but they were two separate people, and one could not expect dreams of the one to realize themselves in the other. So even though her little girl was only scant months old and largely not ready for such philosophical notions as the nature of identity to a reincarnating being, Demi did not bring Jibreel to the cemetery because this did not seem like a right thing do to. It was unfair to the living as well as the dead.

Despite everything she had now, her small hands still trembled as she laid out the roses on the ground before the delicately curved stone with its little stone doves. Lumina, her little child as she had been, was gone, dead forever, and she would not come again. Demi would not hear her stumble at the piano or cheerfully relate some idle thought as she tripped home from ballet lessons; she would never fall in love; she would never marry and bear her own curiously deep-eyed little children; she would never tell those children stories on deep winter nights of the fairy tale her mother had built for them all out of her own blood and exhaustion. Demi would not hear these things, Lumina would not know these things because those times had passed away, like a candle going out in a draft that can't be relit because the wick's gone too short.

She shared a strange and deeply shifting sameness with the little girl who had lain under this ground for nearly three years now, because the two of them were the only people living, dead - who had ever lived and died - who had loved deeply and without thought the stone-gray rosethorn monster that he had been until the world had been shifted on its axis. They had shared that pain together, and it was personal and binding, like lash marks accross her back that she would not trade for anything, would never trade, despite the low ache in her spine every so often on a particularly dark evening when he was late out on call.

Lumina had paid everything she had in her pockets - lint and pence and peppermints and her school reports, tears that wouldn't come from those little owl eyes, eyes that were heedless of blood as her own had been. Lumina had paid until she had had nothing left, and in the end she had not been allowed to see how he looked with the light rekindled in his eyes, lifeblood red, not deathblood red.

Demi wondered if Lumina had found that justice unanswered when accounts were settled. Strangely, she doubted it. The two of them, they were women of deep faith, and in the end it really did not matter what the outcome was. They did not love in an attempt rewrite being. They loved simply to love.

She kissed her fingertips and brushed them against the cool stone, reading the furrowed grain of the name and death date under her fingers, then she rose quietly, thoughtfully, and pulled her coat a little closer around herself.

"There was nothing you could have done, Demeter."

She startled forward because she had been alone in the cemetery, she always came alone, and he was supposed to be at the hospital at this hour - but there he was, motionless in his great coat, a few steps behind her. She pushed the hair out of her face where it had fallen and moved to stand close to him, close but not touching, even though the cemetery was deserted outside the two of them.

"How did you know to come?" she asked softly, fishing her knit mittens from her pockets and slowly pulling them on one at a time.

"You always come on her birthday," he answered shortly, and of course he would know, despite the fact that she had never said anything. He always knew.

"You remembered," she smiled, and perhaps it was a bit wistful. Lumina had been there in the halls of that hospital, lace and patent leather, just a couple of spare weeks before she had turned six years old.

"Of course," he said without further comment, as if it was not in him to forget the birthdays of his children, to forget the birthday of this one child that was not exactly his, except in her bones.

"I miss her," she smiled weakly, eyes trembling at the edges as she remebered red rover and tiny plaid skirts and sharing her bed with a little warm body who often woke screaming from nightmares she would not tell.

"I know," he said and laid steady hand against her back. She leaned against him and thought of tweed and books read to children who were almost all dead now.

"Do you think it's silly for me to miss her?" she asked seriously, her eyes wide and dark, "I have Jibreel. Do you think I'm being ungrateful?"

He looked at her for a long time before answering, "Jibreel is not Lumina. They will be different people. Don't feel guilty for being unsure. You are unused to the idea. This is the first time you've met someone again within the same lifetime."

Unstated between them were the people he had met, over and over, always and again and different and the same.

"Do you ever miss Gabriel?" she asked softly, "Gabriel. Gabriel. The first Gabriel."

"Demeter, you are Gabriel," he answered simply and then shook his head, "Every Gabriel. Always Gabriel. It is in you deeper than your spine and bones. I cannot miss you. You are here."

"Rachel then," she said thoughtfully, biting her lip, "Not our Rachel. The Rachel before."

"I can find Rachel in you without looking too deeply, Demeter Serraffield. I think there is something in you that positively yearns for the self-inflicted castigation of Catholicism," he remarked drily and she laughed like autumn rain, gentle.

"You're horrific sometimes, but I think that's possibly why I love you. Self-castigation and all."

"I wouldn't be surprised."

"Is it stupid then to come to a gravestone that just marks bones? Her soul is some place else now. It's at home, in that little bassinet," she asked, letting her eyes fall to the ground again and to the seven white roses.

"Gabriel, all gravestones only mark bones. Souls, even mortal souls, do not stay in the dirt. You know that," he said and she shook her head.

"You know what I mean. How can I mourn Lumina? Jibreel is alive."

"You pay respects. It is not wrong to pay respect to the dead. It is not wrong to remember."

Her gloved hand slipped into his coat pocket and found his hand where it had retreated, "It is hard to come back sometimes, isn't it?"

"It is often difficult to remember the past when the past has been hard. Your past has been hard, and for my part in that, I can only - "

"Duriel, where is my stone in Anagi?"

He was quiet for a time, as if he had not expected such a question in such a place, but after a few moments he answered, "Near the river. On holy ground. You deserved better than to be robbed for cretinous magical ritual."

"You've been back?" she asked as the wind caught her hair again and nearly blew her hat off so she had to clamp her hand down to catch it. She squeezed his hand in his coat pocket and thought of a peaceful place by the river, maybe with an olive tree.

"Not for a long time," he said, and she knew it was there.

"But you have," she smiled easily, having already read the answer in his posture.

"I have."

"To a stone that just marks spine and bones," she said, leaning down to run her hand over the smooth stone of the marker one last time, "Because it is important to remember, even when it hurts."

"That is the most important time to remember," he answered, and she leaned into the folds of his coat, steadied by his hand.

"Then," she said softly, sighing into the breeze that ruffled the petals of the seven glass coffin roses, "I don't think it is in me to forget her, my little girl."

"It isn't," he said, hand down her spine, "I've known you for too long."

"Rachel," she said, "Self-castigation."

"Gabriel," he replied, "Self-sacrifice."

"Demeter," she smiled faintly and wrapped her arms around his, "Self-actualization. Let's go home."

And they did.